OpenSocial campaign launched in October 2007 it aimed to give developers a common environment that application publishers could publish widgets to with one set of code, deployable across Google sites, MySpace, Hi5 and numerous other social networks.When the Google-led
A directory of OpenSocial Apps launched today and the reality is even further from that goal than we expected. Out of 12,456 apps listed, only 83 are running on two or more "containers." That's 0.7% or one out of every 1500. Update: See this reply below from Google's Kevin Marks. Marks says that cross-network presence was counted manually and is actually larger than it appears in the directory.
OpenSocial was intended to help everyone else keep up with the huge success of the Facebook platform. If there's one clear market leader, everyone else has a common interest in creating a standard that will help scale the market opportunity on their platforms vs. what Facebook can offer. It hasn't worked out that way, though.
Outside observers hoped that OpenSocial would allow for user data to be transmitted from one site to another. People thought this was the coming of Data Portability, though OpenSocial advocates quickly said that wasn't the intent. It was just for apps to port, not user data. There is a lot of innovation going on in OpenSocial - it's a shame the platform isn't better appreciated.
Below: I discuss OpenSocial in March of last year on G4TV, forced to break the host's heart about data portability!
Why hasn't cross-network development happened though? There are a few theories. The most common is that though there is a common bed of code across all the different social network containers, each of them is also tweaked just enough that it's not that easy to "write once." When that became apparent, OpenSocial advocates started saying that the standard still made it a lot easier to develop for multiple networks. So if not "write once, deploy everywhere" then perhaps it was "write once and then take a lot less time to write for elsewhere than you'd have to otherwise."
Clearly developers haven't taken advantage of that opportunity.
Google's Kevin Marks, one of the leading public faces for OpenSocial, told us today that there are serious cultural differences between the networks and that this could help explain why there hasn't been more cross pollination. One look through the directory makes it clear though that while the countless "hot bikini girl" apps may not translate from MySpace to LinkedIn well, all the other networks have their own isolated versions of many of the same insipid apps.
The most viable explanation could be that Facebook is in fact the only game in town for the most sophisticated developers. That's a real shame, because it's never good for innovation for there to be only one game in town.